by Paul R. Spitzzeri
It has long been a journalistic tradition, when closing out the old and ringing in the new year, to both summarize the past twelve months while anticipating what is to come in the next, while, alternatively, the change in years has also long been an opportunity to promote and boost a locality covered by a newspaper.
Such is the case with tonight’s featured object from the Homestead’s collection, being the fifth part of the “Annual Midwinter Number” issued by the Los Angeles Times on 28 December 1926. Being the Roaring Twenties, it is no surprise to see the paper, which was especially eager to promote greater Los Angeles at every turn, lavish extravagant praise on the region in a variety of ways.
It was likely carefully planned that “Climate” should be the theme of the first page with the well-worn subheading of “From the Mountains to the Sea.” Here, Dr. Ford A. Carpenter, a consulting metereologist, wrote that “choose your climate—any pleasing variety desired—and you will ind it somewhere in Southern California and near Los Angeles.” The locales from the coast through the valleys and to the mountain ranges “afford the greatest range of healthful weather observed anywhere in the world.”
After noting temperature ranges, Carpenter added that there “are more than 200 cloudless days” during the year and some places only had fifteen days with measurable precipitation, while others could have two feet of snow in the winter or rain that “has been known to come down at the rate of an inch a minute.” Not only that, the doctor continued, “almost any day you can get in your car and quickly each the clime and scenery that most appeal.” An hour from Los Angeles and the bracing deserts that were warm in winter, while a half hour leads “to a cooler and more breezy spot in summer.”
Next was “Parks and Playgrounds” with a full-page rotogravure photo of Westlake, now MacArthur, Park and the short notice noted that “spread over extensive areas of diversified landscape, Southern California’s cities enjoy an unusual number of large and beautiful parks in picturesque settings.” Los Angeles had 27 playgrounds, four mountain camps in the national forests nearby, seven swimming pools and miles of beaches.
Beyond this, it was noted that there were well-equipped and supervised play areas, where there were “experts who instil[l] sound ideals and provide sports that bring health and vigor to children.” The City of Los Angeles Playground and Recreation Department had a dozen community centers, seventeen sports facilities, more than two dozen “outdoor gyms,” nearly that many playgrounds for litle ones, fifteen wading pools and “many grounds for games.”
Under the heading of “Culture,” it was averred that “Southern California has advanced far toward becoming the cultural center of the Americas,” a claim that might be laughed at by such metropolises as New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. Highlighted were libraries, museums, U.S.C., U.C.L.A., and CalTech, the Mt. Wilson Observatory and more.
For those interested in art and other fields, there was “the big Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art,” now the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, which “affords unsurpassed facilities for investigation and study and opens wide the portals of opportunity,” as well as “the magnificent H.E. Huntington Library, [which] holds priceless books and works of art—a collection not surpassed in the world” (this was just before the famed capitalist and collector died) and the new Central Public Library which “blends everything that could be desired in beauty and service for the reading public.” Also noted were art exhibitions in galleries like the Stendhgal, Biltmore and Cannell-Chafin.
It is perhaps not surprising that the Sports section did not depict football, baseball, track or other widely followed examples, but, instead, fixated on those enjoyed by the upper crust, including yachting, golf and polo, with the former receiving almost all of the text in this area. “Beach Life” did note that “every day has its special charm along Southern California’s hundreds of miles of sunlit shoreline” and noted the mass popularity of the region’s beaches and it was observed that the temperature in the water only varied by seven degrees through the year, though two of the four photos and some text highlighted beach clubs in Long Beach and Santa Monica.
A page devoted to “Beauty in Business” talked about architectural aesthetics applied to commercial structures and showed a few examples, but a small box discussing the approximately 200 movie theaters so that “Los Angeles is an outstanding center of the whole world of make-believe” was not accompanied by any images of the film palaces discussed. These included the recently completed El Capitan and Orpheum and the nearly finished Grauman’s Chinese.
A striking full-page photo of a packed Broadway was joined by a brief exposition of “People and Prosperity” which stated that “Los Angeles is now the fifth city in the United States in point of population and of retail trade.” California’s Controller Ray Riley reported mid-year that the city had 1.26 million denizens and that, within 20 miles of downtown, there were over 2.1 million residents, fully comprising 40% of the state’s population. Growth in the Angel City since 1900, when it had about 320,000 occupants, “has broken all world ecords, maintaining prosperity during periods of depression in other sections.” In the first half of the decade, retail trade jumped 11.6% each year and sales for the first eight months of 1926 was above 4% more than the comparable period the prior year.
Outdoor venues for sports and entertainment were also featured with views of the Coliseum during football games, the Easter sunrise service at Mt. Robidoux at Riverside, and the famous operatic soprano Amelita Galli-Curci at the Hollywood Bowl, joined by those of concerts at Balboa Park and the Pomona College Greek Theater at Claremont. Also promoted were the great outdoors, because it was stated that “set in the heart of a recreation land that has no peer, Los Angeles . . . holds national leadership in the realm of outdoor play activities—outings, camping, fishing, hunting, climbing peaks, motoring, and the happy, invigorating open-air life generally.” The City owned three camps in the local mountains, Seeley and Radford in the San Bernardinos and Inyo in the Sierras near Mammoth Lake, and the short summary concluded that the many amenities of the region “is why there are few cases of ‘all work and no play’ in Southern California.”
The “Living Costs” and “Homes and Gardens” pages emphasized the communities of the well-to-do, such as Beverly Hills, Flintridge, Pasadena and Laguna Beach, though there were photos of nicely-appointed apartment and bungalow court sites, as well. For the latter page, it was noted that “in and near Los Angeles is available such a variety of building sites that the most exacting person can have his heart’s desire gratified” and it was added “everywhere dwellings of all types and coss, from mansions to tiny bungalows, find their places; and they fit naturally and comfortably in settings not marred by crowding, for here is ample space and no congestion.”
It was admitted that “we probably have more than the usual proportion of palatial residences,” but also claimed that “the average house is smaller and the average lot larger than where there is not an all-year climate,” while there were, by far, more home owners as a percentage than elsewhere. As for gardens, “the flora, trees and shrubs of virtually every clime thrive here” and with “simple transplanting can be produced in a few months an ornamental landscape that would require ten or a dozen years in the East.” It was asserted that three-quarters of all residential lots had vegetable gardens that were “well kept and generously yielding.”
The former page opined that the best way to determine an optimum standard of living was through utility costs and Los Angeles literally fit the bill with abundant access to water through the Los Angeles Aqueduct and oil and natural gas from high-producing local fields. Water was reported to be five cents cheaper than in other cities, while gas was from $20 to $66 less annually than other cities. Finally, electric bills were, on an average, just $1.90 per month, “a markedly low price.”
The theme of the purported balance of work and leisure was embodied in the motto adopted by the County of Los Angeles: “Nature’s Workshop & A Year ‘Round Playground.” A collage of photos show views of agriculture, oil, manufacturing, and motion picture production, along with the beaches, camping and picnicking with captions highlighting these attributes. Of course, the challenge was going to be and still remains how to manage considerable economic growth and development with its effects on nature and the complex and often-fragile environment in our region.
One of the few features devoted to an individual is an interesting one on Marco H. Hellman, son of the late Herman W. Hellman and nephew of Isaias W. Hellman, once a banking partner of William Workman and F.P.F. Temple. Hellman was lionized as “one of the prominent and worthy figures in the history of California” and, interestingly, was said to be “a strong contrast to [Charles] Darwin” because “he has not lost the beauty of life’ while “to him every day is a new day filled with wonder and loveliness.”
Not only that, cried out author Henry K. Silversmith,” the head of Merchants National Bank “has found the mystic key that opens the gates of the palace of happiness” and “radiates light and faith and cheer as the sun shines light” with optimism, helpfulness and one who, in the face of adversity, “simply forgets it and goes calmly on in the path of duty.” One example of his duty to his city was in the selling of $1 million worth of bonds for the Los Angeles Aqueduct project.
Hellman’s prowess as a banker and funder of many commercial deveopment projects in the Angel City was said ot be such that “he has been prominent in every enterprise that looked to the growth and prosperity of Los Angeles since his advent into business activities” and, purportedly, he “holds more offices in banks, corporations and civic institutions than most any other Californian.”
The platitudes continued on, but this passage sums up Silversmith’s silver-penned paean to Hellman: “simple as a child in his tastes, easily approached, bearing his honors and the prestige his well-earned wealth give him meekly, a firm and unfailing friend, a generous but vigilant enemy, in charities abundant, Marco Hellman will so continue as he passes down the golden slope towards the sunset, and when at last he goes over the ‘Great Divide,’ he will leave behind the memory of a life well and nobly lived and his name will be carved high on the marble shaft of California’s worth-while citizens.”
There are, naturally, plenty of ads to defray the costs of the publication and, not surprisingly, most of them are from big insurance, banking, construction, engineering, clothing, advertising, and other larger commercial and industrial firms. The rear cover is from the California Walnut Growers Association for its Diamond brand—Walter P. Temple raised the crop at the Homestead during that period.
Another connected to him is and ad from the architectural firm headed by Albert R. Walker and Percy Eisen, designers of most of Temple’s commercial buildings including the Great Republic Life and National City Bank buildings downtown. The firm’s advertisement showed several recent projects including the Fine Arts Building (now a City historic-cultural landmark), the Security Title Building (where the Temple Estate Company had its officers for a time in the early Thirties), and the Beverly Wilshire Apartments (now the Beverly Wilshire Hotel)—all in Los Angeles, and the Breakers Hotel in Long Beach. All of these notable buildings are still with us, but the fanciful cliff-hugging St Andrews Beach Club, slated to be built where Western Avenue ends at White Point Beach in San Pedro, went unrealized.
One of the few taken out by an individual is from Paramount Pictures director Ernst Lubitsch, whose career (including early work as an actor) spanned over three decades, first in his native Germany and then, from 1922, in American where he was hired to direct Mary Pickford, but that experience went badly and he worked for Warner Brothers before being hired by both MGM and Paramount and earning two Oscar nominations at the end of the Twenties. His career continued basically uninterrupted until his death in 1947, with The Shop Around the Corner (1940) and 1941’s To Be Or Not To Be, being late highlights.
The Annual Midwinter Numbers of the Times, of course, did not represent “Everyday Life in Southern California” for a great number of the region’s residents, but, rather, reflected the middle and upper classes of society in greater Los Angeles, likely to be the predominant readers of the publication. The museum’s collection contains several other issues from 1928 and 1929, with one featured on this blog at the begining of this year, so look for others to be highlighted in future posts.